One more night in Bangkok
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Next stop Bangkok! I flew down south to meet Coconut with the idea of spending some time with her while also keeping in mind that anything could happen as basically Thai women can be crazy and much gets lost in translation when you are with them. Arriving on Friday I went to her massage parlor and we agreed to go out later on to some bars. Looking forward to this I texted her later in the day asking when we would meet up. I was somewhat surprised to receive the reply 'I GO TO AIRPORT WITH HUSBAND'. Oh dear I thought, I hooked a crazy one. Stupid me had gone and got carried away and got stung. However I decided not to get angry as in the back of my mind this had always been a possibility, despite several amorous texts from her previously she had obviously lost interest. So I walked around the surrounding area and looked for a good yet affordable place to stay. After viewing a few over priced hotels I came across a modestly priced Best Western hotel nearby. This hotel had a huge room, air con, en suite bath, fridge, cable tv and microwave. Upstairs there was a swimming pool and a sauna and downstairs there was 24 hour security. After requesting a discount for a 7 day plus stay they offered me one of around 25 percent which meant effectively I was paying £25 for a good quality central hotel with 24 hour access and free breakfast. This was a great find and redeemed the day a little. After unpacking and catching up on some international news I rang Charlie and spent the rest of the evening with him and his friends in a district near the Victory Monument where the May riots took place and where sniper shots had rung around. We talked in hushed tones about the Thai royal family and the May riots in Bangkok and after several drinks I headed home on a motorcycle taxi.
On rising in the late morning I hauled my body to the rooftop of the hotel to do some sunbathing and it was here that I met Stef, a nice guy from Germany. All jokes aside about the fact that we beat them twice in successive world wars and in the world cup and that they are ruthlessly efficient machines, I have found the Germans a lovely bunch. Like me he had been traveling around Asia for several months and was now enjoying the sights of Bangkok. Unfortunately he had been attacked by dogs in Cambodia while on his bike and fallen off and sprained his spine. But he didn't seem to badly effected and was telling me his German insurance covered it and would also give him a business class flight back to Germany when he left! We got on well and he suggested we got out later on that evening to some good bars he knew and this seemed like a good way to take my mind of the ridiculous Coconut episode. Quelle chance! After visiting several bars and rather worse for wear we stumbled into a pool bar and I saw a beautiful Thai girl in the bar. We made eye contact and after the disappointment of Coconut I was determined to not let a chance slip and so I went over to talk to her. We hit it off straight away. Her real Thai name is Supaporn (yes it is an actual Thia name) and her nickname is Oi and we ended up spending the next ten days with each other.
It was now Friday and I was determined to find a good nightclub and have a good dance with Oi. So I made some calls to Charlie and his friends as well doing some internet research and decided upon two clubs to go to.
We now felt the need to see some sights and we decided to visit some more wats and places of historic interest. The first of these was the Grand Palace complex, which was built in 1782 after King Rama 1 ascended to the throne.
The next day we decided to get some well needed rest and relaxation at one of Oi's friends massage parlors. This time it was in a part of town where there are few foreigners and the price reflected that. I had a two hour muscle crunching beating from an excellent masseuse while Oi was also being beaten up by a lady boy masseuse in the next cubicle. This was probably one of the best massages I have had and cost only 200 baht or roughly 4 pounds, a similar massage in central Bangkok would set you back around 10 pounds. Feeling suitably relaxed we headed back to the hotel for some sunbathing on the roof and some exercise in the gym, which is always a nice way to spend the mid afternoon period. I had decided we should make a visit to see the sunset somewhere which would afford us good views of the city. So we headed to a smart hotel I had read about called the Banyan Tree which is Bangkok's third highest observation point. A Banyan tree is a tree of great beauty and is a fig that starts its life as an epiphyte when its seeds germinate in the cracks and crevices on a host. Obviously I am not a fauna geek but just googled that one. We hoped on the metro system and after exiting at Lumpini Park station I decided to get a taxi to the hotel to make sure we did not get lost and would not miss the sunset views. Half way through the ride the traffic was so bad I decided we should get out and walk the rest of the distance as I could see the hotel in the distance. In my hurry to get to the hotel in good time, as the sun was already dipping down the horizon, I hastily opened the left sided taxi door to get out, despite Oi warning me to be careful. Unfortunately a scooter was passing by in the inside lane and he crashed into the taxi door, in slow motion I saw him spin up into the air and crash down onto the ground with his helmet coming off and some debris falling onto the curb. I rushed over to make sure he was ok and apologise; luckily he was young guy who was unhurt and took it in good spirits. In Asia saving face is everything so an apology nearly always remedies situations like these. The taxi driver was less understanding however and demanded 1000 baht for some slight damage to his paint work (taxi drivers usually rent their taxis from their bosses). This seemed a bit excessive and as I was bargaining with him several moped drivers passed by and seeing the commotion joined in the conversation over how much I should pay. Oi told me they were saying 1000 baht was too much and 500 hundred should cover the damage so that it was I gave him. Slightly annoyed but also glad that the boy had not been hurt we made our way to the hotel. The Banyan Tree is a superb 69 floor modern luxury hotel. The lift zipped us up to the 65th floor Vertigo bar in seconds and we were walked to this chic bar on top of the building affording spectacular views of a large swathe of the city,with the Chao Phraya river bending round Bangkok on one side and Lumpini Park and the surrounded areas on the other.
After heading back down to the street I fancied some Chinese food and so asked Oi to show me around China Town. China town itself is insanely busy and the traffic makes Bangkok seem like a walk in the park. Everywhere are people, food stalls, restaurants and various peddlers of anything from shark fins to tarot cards. The main street is nicely lit up by a series of lit red lanterns which swing from one side of the street to the other at traffic light level to make for an atmospheric street scene. After eating some great and cheap Chinese food in a restaurant we went to get some coffee. Hear we came across the cutest little girl of around seven who was the coffee stall owner's daughter. She was asking us questions about what coffee we liked and told us not too drink too much or we would get the shakes from the caffeine, she even asked us to come back again! This child was an early learner indeed who already showed commercial nous and a basic level of English speaking! The Asians seems to have an innate commercial gene in them, it is just sometimes they have no real plan to back it up with or are too lazy to really make as much money as they could. However the Chinese are a different breed from the Thais in this respect and commerce is everything to them.
Now we only had a few days in Bangkok left and I had burned through a fair bit of cash so decided to keep it low key, so the next day we went to watch a movie after hearing rave reviews of Thai cinemas. I was not disappointed as for around 5 pounds each we got a deluxe reclining seat with loads of leg room and a large bucket of popcorn with two soft drinks. Before the movie started we had to stand up for the King's anthem which was played on screen before the movie began. We then sat down and watched the hilarious movie 'Little Fockers' (obvious pun as you can imagine) which is the third in the series of a hit comedy film starring, among others, Robert De Niro, Barbara Streissand, Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Alba and other luminaries of the screen. It was a very funny movie and a much more pleasant and cheaper experience than watching a movie in a London cinema. Otherwise the last days were spent eating copious amounts of delicious street food and drinking cheap cocktails at street side bars which are erected for the nighttime. For 30 baht, or around 70 pence, I was always drawn to the delicious noodle stalls where you would get noodle soup with chicken, beef or pork together with bamboo sprouts, fresh herbs and various condiments like chili syrup and sugar. Each time I get a little more adventurous with the spicy condiments and each time the sweat trickles down by brow that little more. The Thais love sweet and sour flavors and it is not uncommon to see someone adding three to four teaspoons of sugar to their noodles. Other typical street food would be barbecued meet, fresh barbecued squid, the fiery papaya salad, river fish, various grilled sausages and fried insects like silk worms. You can eat like a king in this way for less than three or four pounds a day and it is very healthy.
On our final day together I wanted to see some more sights as the ticket for the Grand Palace I had bought several days ago also entitled me to visit the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall and Vimanek Mansion. After another canal taxi ride and a short taxi trip we trundled onto the Vimanek Mansion. This is described as the world's largest golden teakwood mansion and is essentially a walk through museum of various palatial rooms. Despite cultural fatigue kicking in we decided to also visit the Ananta Samkhom Throne Hall. This is a huge mansion complex where King Rama 1 had his throne hall built in 1907. The throne hall is made from Carrera marble from Italy and embellished with a Renaissance decor on the domed ceilings. This hall serves as a venue for the Kingdom's Royal and governmental pageantry. Within it are around 30 mind blowingly exquisite masterpieces made by selected and highly skilled craftsmen on the Queen's orders. Some pieces take up to three years and a hundred craftsmen to build. The highlights were the Busabok Mala which is a golden boat raised on a busabok platform and hand crafted in gold, damascene, enamel, silver and wood carving. This is then further embellished with cut iridescent green beetle wing and intricately woven Yan Lipao vine. Then there is the Te Sri Suphannahongse Royal Barge which is a four foot model of the barge of King Rama 1 and is made of gold, enamel and diamonds. There were many other stunning pieces to view and an audio aid so you listen to descriptions of the pieces. After soaking this up it was late afternoon and we were tired and made our way back to the Oi's flat to relax before heading out to eat at a Laos restaurant which Oi knew well as it was in her neighborhood. Here there was a lovely Loas band playing traditional songs with women performing the lovely slow dancing they do in the Laos style and dressed in traditional costumes
After having spent a wonderful time with Oi it was time move on to Laos. Oi was pretty upset but I told her just to remember the good times we had and that I would probably see her again anyway as I would have to fly from Bangkok to Manila in a month or so. We said our goodbyes and I sped off to the airport to catch my flight to Udon Thani